If you like vampire stories and have read a little Bram Stoker here, a bit of The Strain there, (even Anne Rice counts) then you’ll know that the fascination with the undead continues to make a good horror read.
Mix in some Chinese legends and you’ll get a twist. A vampire that is not deterred by crosses and even wants to make his own church! But he is afraid of Jade and Willow.
Like “The Walking” and “The Revelation“, the story takes place in the desert – in the small town of Rio Verde. The characters are undergoing some development (which is cool too see) and there is a lot of Chinese-driven racism throughout the book – Sue Wing being called “Slanty Eyed Bitch” and “Chink” multiple times. But Sue Wing is still a great character to see in action and her grandma with her tales of the old Cantonese village where she grew up brings in a bit more background to the story.
What I liked about this book is not the vampire theme but the characters. The isolation, the growing old, the handling of a breaking in relationship, the religious fanaticism installed by the preacher.
As the title alludes, the book focuses more on the evil being summoned up in the towns people than to the source of the evil. In fact, the evil being a vampire is almost inconsequential since it could have been almost anything.
Little takes the concept of vampirism to such a wonderfully brutal and creative place that I’d even like to see other authors rip off this concept from him.
Sue Wing- She is a second-generation Chinese American who though a high-school graduate still lives with her parents and works in their restaurant. Slowly drifting through life she finally decides that she needs to go further and enrolls in a junior college journalism class. Sue’s family consists of her Mother, Father, and Grandmother, who are all immigrants, and her brother, both he and she are American born. I mention the fact that they are American born because part of the theme of this book is Sue trying to find a place in American society while still being held back by her Chinese heritage. Besides having to deal with a vampire that is sucking the land and the townspeople dry she learns that she is an heir to an ancient Chinese mystical gift.
Rich Carter- He is a devoted family man with one daughter. He grew up in the small town that the story takes place in before leaving for college. Years later he returned, dragging his city-dwelling wife back with him. He is quite happy to be a small town newspaper editor where the biggest story is which store is having a sale; his wife is less than pleased. She wants more to life than to be his assistant and soon finds herself employed by a local reverend.
The story for the most parts revolves around these two characters and their interactions with their family and the town. As with most of Little’s work, there are brief scenes that showcase a few of the other inhabitants of the town, usually in a non-flattering moment in their life. The story begins with a pastor that is convinced that he has seen Jesus. Even better Jesus had told him that if he builds Him a church that He will return to earth and reside there. For the reader, the fact that Jesus wants an all-black painted church and has declared the day of his return to be October 31st is pretty much red flags that something is amiss.
Of course ‘Jesus’ is a vampire who appears to many people in many guises. The common theme of his guises is that he always is seen as a figure that cannot die, or who have died and come back, Jesus, the Phoenix, Mexican monster ‘The Laughing Man’, and Elvis to mention a few. His true form is much more sinister.
Unlike most of Little’s books, we do get to see a national response to what is happening in the town. As I have mentioned before in a lot of Bentley’s books the unnatural is almost seen as fated and the characters really don’t seem to make rational choices as to where to turn for help. The government, laws and law enforcement are hardly ever in play. Most horrors this is fine, you really do not expect the army to show up and react to Mike Myers because his visitations are so short and are often over before there could be any logical responses, whereas in a Bentley Little book the horror is usually drawn out over years with plenty of opportunities to get the police involved.
Rich’s brother is the sheriff in town and unlike most horror story Police officers are ready to accept the proof in front of his eyes that a vampire is attacking the town. State and federal law enforcement are brought into the scene. The FBI agent on the scene soon believes the truth, but in a misguided attempt to try and grab a chance at promotion from the incident, does not properly move the case up the chain but continues to try and handle it himself, even when he has evidence that something unusual is happening.
Soon it is noticed that there are fewer people in the town than there should be and people are starting to be affected by the influence of the vampire. It is obvious that something must be done and Sue is drafted by her Grandmother, who also possesses the ancient power and has had a small experience with vampires, to lead a party to the monsters home.